Introduction: Leather "Traps" Drawstring Purse

About: Leather crafting is not just something I do, it means something to me. My goal is to successfully project that in every piece I create. Even the name, 3 Parks Design, means something to me as it represents two…

This small drawstring style leather purse is not your ordinary purse; it looks even more unique open! When closed, it is folded in on itself and "traps" your daily necessities such as phone, wallet, keys, etc. It will even effectively carry a digital camera and related supplies. It opens up wide for easy access to a main compartment and two interior pockets with versatile carry options.

This was an off-the-cuff project that I have been dying to toy around with by incorporating origami and the trapping styles of carnivorous plants into functional leather! Plus, it was a good excuse to finally make something out of a unique leather I just fell in love with during a recent visit to one of my local Tandy's shops, Live Oak Sides Cappuccino. The texture, pattern and grain reminded me so much of tree bark - how could I possibly say no to that and NOT buy their entire stock on the spot - it was on sale! So after several intermittent days of drafting alterations, trial and error, head scratching and overall do it as you go, this is the result. Luckily, I had come across a triangular travel bag pattern as a guide for all the original math and proportions (ugh math) to get me started. I then incorporated my own modifications for size, function and leather suitability to make my own pattern.

Although this project incorporates the use of a pattern and is heavy with hand-stitching, it does not incorporate any tooling, stamping, dyeing or finishing. This was an incredibly fun little bag to make and provided me with a healthy challenge. A huge thank you to my awesome neighbor for graciously modeling!

Step 1: Get the Goods

The components to this project are: Outer Panel, Liner Panel, Pockets (2), Bottom Panel Stiffener, Gussets (4), Grommet Hem, Drawstring Strap, Drawstring Slide

Tandy's item numbers are indicated in italics where helpful.

Basic Tools/Supplies:

  • Poly Mallet
  • Quartz Slab - #32228-00
  • Poly Cutting Board
  • Heavy Duty Scissors
  • Rotary Cutter & Mat
  • Thonging Chisel Set - #3008-00
  • Hand-Stitching Needles - #1195-00
  • Round Drive Punch (#12, 5/16") - #3777-12
  • Grommet Setter & Anvil - #8097-03
  • Marking Utensils (for leather and paper media)
  • Straight-Edge/Ruler & Yardstick
  • Optional: Strap End Punch, your preference of type

Basic Materials*:

    • 5-6 sqft of a 3-6 oz Pliable Leather (upholstery, garment, stone-oiled etc)
    • 5-6 sqft of a 1-2 oz Liner Leather
    • 4-5 yds Paracord
    • 25 yds Waxed Nylon Thread
    • 5/16" #1 Grommets (nickel plated) - #1285-12
    • Eco-Weld Contact Cement, or similar
    • Tanner's Bond Adhesive Tape, 5mm or 10mm
    • Glue Applicators
    • Bag Stiffener - #9072-00, or similar
    • 22"x28" Posterboard
    • Optional: Edge Dressing & Wool Dauber

    NOTES: * All indicated amounts listed are approximated and based on the type of materials/technique that I used specifically. The leathers I used were the Live Oak Side Cappucino and Mission Grain Pigskin.

    Step 2: Make the Pattern Templates

    Tools/Materials Needed for this Step: Posterboard, Marking Utensil, Yardstick, Scissors and/or Rotary Cutter & Mat, Diagrams

    2a - Outer Panel & Bottom Panel Stiffener Templates

    • Please refer to Outer Panel Diagram
    • Draw a 15 3/4" x19 1/2" large rectangle on one sheet of 22"x28" posterboard and cut it out
    • Find and mark center by drawing diagonal lines to each of the four corners
    • Draw 5 1/4" x 5 1/4" square at each corner of the rectangle, mark the diagonal then cut on the diagonal to produce the mitered corners - new shape is an octagon* and is the Outer Panel template
    • Draw connection lines from the inner corners of the 5 1/4" x 5 1/4" squares to produce a smaller rectangle at center which should be approximately 5 1/4" x 9"
    • Cut out this smaller rectangle to create a "window" and keep this small rectangle - this is the Bottom Panel Stiffener template

    2b - Liner Panel & Pocket Templates

    • Please refer to Liner Panel Diagram
    • Trace the outline of the Outer Panel template onto a second sheet of 22"x28" posterboard then trace inside the rectangular "window" and cut out this second octagon shape
    • From the corners of the hexagon, mark dots 2 3/4" in toward center
    • Draw connection lines from the four corners of the inner rectangular out to each dot to create the shape of the Liner Panel
    • Cut out the weird little corners, "gusset/pocket", but make sure to save at least one to use as the Pockets template

    TIPS: The small rectangular "window" will provide an easy aid in centering the Bottom Panel Stiffener on the Outer Panel in Step 6, helping as well when making the Liner Panel template in 2b.

    NOTE: The "octagon" shape of the Outer Panel template is not supposed to be a perfect octagon since it is drafted from a rectangle.

    Step 3: Use the Pattern Templates

    Tools/Materials Needed for this Step: Leathers, Bag Stiffener, Templates*, Marking Utensil, Ruler, Scissors and/or Rotary Cutter & Mat

    3a - Cut from the Pliable Leather

    • Lay out the leather, flesh side (ugly side) up, place Outer Panel template and then trace around
    • Cut the Outer Panel from the pliable leather

    3b - Cut from Liner Leather

    • Please refer to 3b picture before beginning.
    • Lay out the leather, flesh side up, place Liner Panel template and then trace around
    • Draw a top parallel line 2" out from the two short ends and two long ends**
    • Extend all lines up to these parallel lines**
    • Using the corners that were cut out from the Liner Panel template, trace out (2) pockets
    • Cut the Liner Panel and (2) Pockets out

    3c -Cut from Bag Stiffener

    • Optional: This added reinforcement will help to define the shape of the purse and keep the bottom from sagging.
    • Use the small rectangle cut from the Outer Panel template made in Step 2 to outline and cut out the Bottom Panel Stiffener
    • Bottom Panel Stiffener should be approximately 5 1/4" x 9"
    • Trim 1/4" off from one long side and then one short side to make the rectangle 5" x 8 3/4"
    • Clip or miter each corner to make them look softer once installed

    TIPS: You never know what you can make from scraps later; in this case, the drawstring slide is made from scrap in the next step, so save them. Use a rotary cutter to cut out panels but do not go all the way into the corners so that you do not over-cut; instead, snip the corners loose with scissors. If you want your purse to be "floppy" then omit 3c - alternatively, you can also cut a bottom panel from craft foam.

    NOTES: *The templates I used in the pictures will look different than those instructed to make in Step 2. I apologize for any confusion that may have created. I used my messy original templates which I drafted to allow for different versions of this purse later. For example, your pockets will be smaller than ones pictured. ** These actions create the area for the Grommet Hem.

    Step 4: Make the Drawstring Strap & Slide

    Tools/Materials Needed for this Step: Outer & Liner Panels, Paracord (& lighter), Leather Scrap, Scissors/Rotary Cutter & Mat, Mallet, Quartz Slab, Poly Board, Ruler/Straight-Edge, Strap End Punch (optional), Edge Dressing & Wool Dauber (optional)

    4a - From the Paracord

    • Cut (2) cords, each 72" in length
    • Use the lighter to carefully melt all four ends of the strips to seal and keep them from fraying
    • These two cords will make up the Drawstring Strap

    4b - From Pliable Leather Scrap

    • Cut a 1" x 4" piece from a small scrap
    • Fold the piece in half and strap end punch the open side
    • This piece is the Drawstring Slide

    4c - Apply Edge Dressing

    • Optional: Seals, camouflages and adds finishing touch to edges/undersides.
    • Apply dressing to the edges of all leather components
    • Apply dressing to the underside, flesh/ugly side, of Liner Panel within the top and 2" line marks*

    TIPS: I chose the 72" cord length to allow for versatile carry options by simply adding or taking away knots.

    NOTES: *This is the underside of the Grommet Hem.

    Step 5: Attach the Pockets

    Tools/Materials Needed for this Step: Liner Panel, Pockets, Marking Utensil, Ruler, Scissors and/or Rotary Cutter & Mat, Tanner's Bond Tape; Sewing Machine OR Waxed Thread/Needles/Thonging Chisel/Mallet/Quartz Slab/Poly Board

    In order to conceal the pocket stitch seams from the outside, YOU MUST attach the pockets to the Liner Panel BEFORE attaching the Liner Panel to the Outer Panel.

    5a - Position & Align

    • Find and mark center (center at approximately 4 1/2") of the base of both long sides of Liner Panel, grain side up
    • Find and mark center of the base of the Pockets
    • Place a strip of tanner's bond tape straight across the base of long sides but approximately 3/16" above the center marks
    • Line up center marks of Pocket base with center marks of long side base, remove paper backing and press firmly
    • Fold the Pocket tabs over the edges to backside and stitch down with tanners bond tape

    5b - Stitch on the Pockets*

    • If you are comfortable with and have a sewing machine that you are 100% confident can tackle lightweight liner leather than by all means save yourself at least an hour of hand stitching and pull out that machine - I certainly did!
    • Stitch the Pocket in place using about a 3/16" seam
    • Reinforce stress points by back-stitching several times
    • No machine to do the job, no worries, just hand-stitch along the bottom of each pocket with a 1/4" seam

    TIPS: You do not have to stitch up the sides of the pockets here like I did, only the base needs to be stitched since the pocket sides will be hand stitched in Step 7. Shortcut - use the "window" on the Outer Panel template to help locate centers of the base each long side on Liner Panel.

    NOTES: *Most run of the mill standard home machines may not handle leather AT ALL so please check with your instructions manual before attempting to run leather in your machine and proceed at your own caution.

    Step 6: Create the Bottom and Grommet Hem

    Tools/Materials Needed for this Step: Outer & Liner Panels, Bottom Panel Stiffener, Marking Utensil, Ruler, Tanner's Bond Tape, Contact Cement, Glue Applicator

    6a - Outline Position of Liner Panel on Outer Panel*

    • Lay the Outer Panel down flat, flesh side up
    • Mark center along each of the two short edges and two long edges of the Outer Panel
    • Mark center along each of the two short edges and two long edges of the Liner Panel
    • Line up all corresponding center points on the Liner Panel (grain side up) to those points on Outer Panel (flesh side up)
    • Using a ruler, check that all edges of Liner Panel overlap the Outer Panel evenly before outlining the Liner Panel shape to the Outer Panel

    6b - Align & Attach Bottom Panel Stiffener

    • Use your Outer Panel template (with "window") to easily find center placement for the Bottom Panel Stiffener
    • All edges of the Bottom Panel Stiffener should measure approximately 5 1/4" away from corresponding edges of the Outer Panel

    6c - Make the Hem

    • Lay the Liner Panel down flat, flesh side up
    • Place a small strip of tanner's bond tape just below the edge dressing applied in Step 4 (approximately 2 1/4" inward from short and long edges of the Liner Panel)
    • Remove the paper backing from the tape and fold these edges over approximately 1 1/4" and press firmly to set the tape

    TIPS: Do not cut too long a strip of tanner's bond tape or else the excess will show after you fold each Grommet Hem down.

    NOTES: *This not only helps you in 6b but also will help in attaching the Liner Panel during Step 7.

    Step 7: Attach the Liner

    Tools/Materials Needed for this Step: Outer & Liner Panels, Ruler, Marking Utensil, Scissors, Tanner's Bond Tape, Contact Cement, Glue Applicator, Mallet, Poly Board, Quartz Slab, Thonging Chisel, Waxed Thread & Needles,

    7a - Glue Liner Panel to Outer Panel

    • Warning: This can be tricky, awkward, require patience and possibly an extra set of hands which is always helpful.
    • Mark as many additional reference points deemed helpful on both Outer Panel (flesh side up) and Liner Panel (grain side up)
    • Lay both Outer & Liner Panels down flat, flesh side up and begin applying the contact cement
    • Allow glue to dry until tacky and pick a small section to line up first to begin adhering the two panels
    • Sandwich a large section of wax paper in between the two tacky panel sides to prevent premature adhesion in areas not yet aligned
    • Press and work the bond outward from start point, doing small sections at a time and sliding more and more of the wax paper out until you reach the other end
    • Quickly flip bag body over, Outer Panel grain side up, and smooth the glue in and around the Bottom Panel Stiffener edges and work out any wrinkles
    • Set several heavy objects on top to set the bond for about 15 mins

    7b - Crease the Folds*

    • After the bond is set up nicely, but not completely dry, start folding the ends over and inward, Liner Panel grain up, all the way around
    • Repeat several times until a nice inward crease is formed for all sides

    7c - Reinforce with Hand-Stitching

    • Measure and mark a stitching seam line 1/4" around the perimeter, Liner Panel grain side up
    • Starting on center of one of the long edges, use thonging chisel to punch stitching holes along this seam line
    • Cut (2) 8-9 yd lengths of waxed thread, or (4) 4 -5 yd, total of approximately 20 yds of thread needed
    • Start hand-stitching (saddle stitch) at a place where the closing stitch will be inconspicuous, like an inner corner

    TIPS: Although, you do not have to glue the Liner Panel to the Outer Panel before stitching, it helps prevent wrinkles in the finished liner and layer shifting while punching the stitching holes. Use Leathercraft Glue in place of the Eco-weld if you want the option to re-position as it does not have as much tacky setup; I find it is a touch less flexible though than Eco-weld.While punching the stitching holes, take care to properly space as you approach the pockets.

    NOTES: *Trimming the 1/4" off from the Bottom Panel Stiffener in Step 3 aids in creasing the folds.

    Step 8: Install the Grommets

    Tools/Materials Needed for this Step: Bag Body, Marking Utensil, Ruler, Grommets, Setter & Anvil, Mallet, Quartz Slab, Pol Board, Drive Punch

    8a - Punch Grommet Holes

    • Mark a center-line point in 3/8" from each end of the short and long edges of the Hem
    • Punch holes at these eight marks made using the 5/16" drive punch
    • Make sure that they will line with each other appropriately BEFORE punching

    8b - Set the Grommets

    • Grommets can be tricky to set properly so this video, Eyelets & Grommets by Tandy, may be helpful.
    • Set the grommets on the long edges of the Hem first
    • Make sure to insert the top part of the grommet so that it faces out; place on anvil and set "cap", bottom ring, using the 5/16" setter tool; repeat on last three holes
    • Now, set the grommets for the two short edges of the Hem*
    • Align the two holes so that they are pinched together with the Hem folding inward toward the inside of the bag; insert the grommet top and bottom and get a good stable grip before setting; repeat on last side

    TIPS: The only way I was able to successfully set the side grommets, with only one set of hands, was to balance the bag on its side while something propped it up. If someone can help hold the bag while you set, it will be MUCH easier and less frustrating; a tool press would be even better but I (unfortunately) do not have one in my repertoire. If you have some tiny plastic spring clamps they are very useful here.

    NOTES: *Warning these two settings are very tricky to hold stable and secure; there is only one grommet for two holes pinched together for each side; grommets are difficult to remove once set.

    Step 9: Make the Gusseted Corners

    Tools/Materials Needed for this Step: Bag Body, Tanners Bond Tape, Marking Utensil, Ruler, Quartz Slab, Poly Board, Mallet, Thonging Chisel, Waxed Thread & Needles

    9a - Align Gussets

    • At each Gusset, push inward down center and line up top edges
    • Use tanners bond tape and small spring clamps to hold alignment
    • Flip bag body inside out
    • Mark stitching seam line 1/4" in from all gusset edges

    9b - Stitch Gussets Closed

    • Punch stitching holes, starting at center of each seam line
    • Stitch all corners, approximately 3/4 yd of thread per gusset, totals approximately 3 yds of thread needed
    • Flip bag body back to right side out

    TIPS: Tiny plastic spring clamps or similar will save much frustration.

    Step 10: Install Drawstring Strap & Slide

    Tools/Materials Needed for this Step: Bag Body, Drawstring Cords, Drawstring Slide, Ruler, Marking Utensil, Thonging Chisel, Mallet, Poly Board, Waxed Thread & Needles, Tanner's Bond Tape

    10a - Install Drawstring

    • Take both pieces of drawstring cut earlier in Step 4 and align from end to end
    • Feed both pieces from one end though each of the three grommets on the left side
    • Feed the other end of both pieces through the other three grommets on the right side to create a doubled stranded drawstring
    • Leave several inches at each end after it is pulled throughthird grommets on from both sides; this should create a closed loop on the front side and dangling open ends on the back side
    • Tie one knot at each of the ends and pull the loop out to cinch up the bag
    • Adjust the length of this strap by pulling more slack through at the knots and making more knots

    10b - Install Slide

    • Fold the side in half and mark a stitching seam line out 5/8" from fold
    • Start on center of line and punch stitching holes
    • Place a strip of tanner's bond tape on the flesh side over the stitching holes
    • Fold in half, over all four strands of the drawstring from the looped end
    • Stick it closed and stitch it on to complete the drawstring strap with slide, approximately 1/2 yd thread needed

    Step 11: Completed Project

    Fill up the purse and pockets, "snap the trap", sling the strap over your shoulder and enjoy!

    Tandy Leather Contest 2016

    Participated in the
    Tandy Leather Contest 2016